Tourists and those with businesses in Costa Rica have about seven weeks to prepare for the next vacation, Semana Santa.
A substantial part of the public and private workforce will be on vacation, and there will be little chance of doing any public business from about March 29 to April 10. The dates are not set yet by the various public agencies, but public employees usually combine the two public holidays of Holy Thursday, this year April 5, and Good Friday, April 6, with vacation time to get a week or more off.
And then some agencies declare the entire week of Semana Santa to be a vacation period.
This is a great time for tourists because there are church processions all over the country that are highly photogenic. They are marking the passion and death of Jesus Christ.
Wednesday, Feb. 22, is Ash Wednesday, the start of the
Christian period of fasting, penance and reflection. Only in Puntarenas is there the traditional pre-Lent carnival. The big ones are in Rio de Janeiro and in New Orleans, where the celebration is called Mardi Gras. Another carnival in Costa Rica is in Limón, but it takes place in October. The canton of Desamparados has had a successful carnival for several years on Dec. 27. That was the date of the discontinued San José post-Christmas carnival.
The tourism high season runs through Semana Santa or Easter week, and the religious celebrations are great subjects for photographers. For years, however, tourism operators have complained of the dry law that is enforced Holy Thursday and Good Friday. Many tourism hotels and restaurants got around the law by using paper cups and other techniques, usually with the approval of the local police.
Lawmakers passed in January on first reading a law to eliminate the prohibitions, but the law gives the municipalities the power to enforce a Holy Week dry law. So that situation still is up in the air.